Student hosts war forum

by Beacon Staff • April 18, 2007

So when the senior organizational and political communication major was deciding on a project for her capstone course, fostering a fair discussion of the issue seemed natural.,Lindsey Longendyke was tired of the political bickering surrounding the Iraq War.

So when the senior organizational and political communication major was deciding on a project for her capstone course, fostering a fair discussion of the issue seemed natural.

Longendyke invited students to the Bill Bordy Theater Tuesday to discuss facts, not opinions, about the war.

The event began with brief introductory remarks by Longendyke followed by speeches from organizational and political communication professor Michael Weiler, author and Iraq War veteran Nathaniel Fick, and Iraqi citizen and journalist Huda Ahmed.

Speakers presented various angles on the war, with Weiler focusing on ideology supporting the conflict, Fick recounting his experience in Iraq and Ahmed describing daily life in Iraq before and after the American-led invasion in 2003.

Longendyke said she planned the event as a way to discuss the war without resorting to trite sound bites like "cut and run" or "stay the course." She said she wanted to keep the forum politically neutral and simply discuss the bare facts about the war.

"I did not produce this event to influence your support for any given policy option. Tonight is not about that," Longendyke said. "Tonight is about getting information and coming together as a community to address an uncomfortable reality."

Fick commended Longendyke for her efforts in arranging the forum. He said he has participated in many discussions on the war before, but Longendyke has done the best job of clearly stating the necessity of such an event.

"We don't all have a duty to serve," Fick said. "We absolutely have a duty to know."

Longendyke prepared and moderated the event as part of her class, Capstone in Leadership, Politics and Social Advocacy, the final requirement taken by organizational and political communication majors prior to graduating.

In the class, students choose an individual project and compile a portfolio of their work. Longendyke said she spent the entire semester arranging the forum.

Other capstone projects include the launch of a political communication magazine at Emerson and a group of students working with Governor Deval Patrick.

Weiler was the first of the three speakers to address the audience of about 100 students and faculty members. He traced the ideology behind the push to war in Iraq back to the early 1970s and the rise of neo-conservatism.

This belief structure, he said, was used to support the argument that the United States could benefit other nations by spreading democracy and capitalism around the world, and at the same time, oppose radical Islamic regimes.

Fick and Ahmed then addressed the impact of this ideology on Iraq, faulting both the American and Iraqi governments for mishandling many aspects of the war.

Fick said the number of troops initially sent to Iraq was not enough to accomplish the job and the recent surge would still fall far short of the number needed to restore stability to the country.

Instead, he said the troop influx would provoke more violence and result in more deaths.

Both Fick and Ahmed voiced support for a gradual withdrawal of American troops, citing concerns that an immediate withdrawal could lead to greater instability in the region or result in a stronger Iran.

"When a government crumbles, and there is nothing there to take its place," Fick said, "there's just this tremendous vacuum."

Weiler advocated awareness of the ramifications of a hasty withdrawal.

He said possible regional repercussions would make pulling out from Iraq more difficult than American withdrawal from Vietnam.

Longendyke said she was pleased with the event, and hoped it would spark more open dialogue between peers and spur people into action, regardless of what policies they support.

"My hope was that as a college and a nation, we could talk about this issue and then do something about it," she said.